ECOCLUB

ISSN 1108-8931

INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY

Year 5, Issue 48, May 2003

The Expert

The Expert showcases the replies of our Expert Members who volunteer free advice on their topic of expertise.
(Articles appear in the order ECOCLUB received them)

In this issue:

Panama Sights 
Reply by Expert Luis Alfredo Brunicardi to an Enquiry

I don't know how experienced you are in Latin American travel, but the first suggestion I would like to make is: always start any conversation / interaction with locals with the personal part. "Hello how is everything, how is family and so on - just as an example - and end with "Thank You Very Much" or Muchas Gracias with an emphasis. Panama is a country with rhythm. Afro Caribbean is the dominant race so it is very warm sometimes hot, sometimes too hot. Indigenes are generally shy, especially women.

Regarding an itinerary: 1- I suggest that you pay a visit to Casco viejo or Zona Colonial in Panama City. There use to be a few pensions like, but I have not been there in almost a year and a half. 2- The Smithsonian museum at Amador causeway. And at the end, a few Panama Beer just steps in a beach front shack. 3- For fantastic out of this world Seafood in the city, just go to "Mercado de Mariscos" outside of the Casco Viejo. 3- On the road up North and just a few miles away from the city, the Bahai Temple on mile 8 it worst a visit. I don't know if you have a religion but It does not matter, plan to stay at least an hour and hire a taxi to go up and the must important, down. Meditate and enjoy the peaceful ambiance. 4- The Las Cruces Trail, fantastic rainforest. 5- San Balas archipielago, do whatever you have to, but GO! 6- Bocas del Toro, another must. 7- Boquete-Chiriqui: OK, but only for the hike to Volcan Baru. 8- Archipielago de Las Perlas: Contadora Island is OK, but the real McCoy is Isla del Rey, a must.

Contact Mr. Luis Alfredo Brunicardi

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How to start thinking about an Ecolodge
Reply by Expert Anderson Pisaniello to an Enquiry

Well, if you hope to project a lodge, the first thing that you need two look is for the geographical area. Where is it? Take the geographical coordinates and look for a good aerial view of this site. The NASA's website is a good example to find satellite photos. Look for geographical data of this area in special pluvial indices, wind velocity and direction, vegetation, natural resources that compound this area (rivers and mountains, etc). A historical and cultural research about the area is a must. You need to know who was in this area, who is now and, in special, who will be in there in next years. After that, look (finally) for the area of implantation of your lodge, look for the topography, local vegetation, and natural resources. Start thinking that any construction is for life, so think about how long your project/construction will be implanted in that place. And more, think about how the ideal levels of integration and maintenance that this construction will need. Find a ideal style of construction that results of natural landscape. The building needs to be created of previous scenes and not to create scenes. Think about each material in particular, how it is obtained, how it processed, how it is used, how it is discarded and recycled. Do not specify building materials that are not obtained in the same geographical area of the implantation. Do not specify wood from Amazonia or marble of Italy only because it's a luxury decoration product, think in an eco-friendly way and your project will be successful!

Contact Architect Anderson Pisaniello 

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Ecotourism in the Niger Delta, in Nigeria
Reply by Expert Samuel Segun Odunlami to an Enquiry

Your enquiry with respect to the feasibility of ecotourism in the Niger Delta of Nigeria was referred to me. I will like to state that Ecotourism in the Niger Delta of Nigeria is highly feasible. The first thing that must be considered is whether the are potentials for ecotourism in the area . Also, the acceptability of the people of the area to ecotourists is another critical issue that must be given due consideration. Well, concerning potentials for ecotourism in the area, I will like to state that the area abounds with a lot of resources for ecotourism. There are a number of Game Reserves and two National Parks. There is Okomu National Park in Edo State and Cross River National Park in Cross River State. Also in Cross River State is the Protea Hotel Ranch Resort (formerly Obudu Cattle Ranch. There is also Gilli Gilli and Kwalle Game Reserves in Edo State. There is also Stubbs Creek Game Reserve in Rivers State. In Akwa Ibom State, there is a Drill Ranch and Anambra game Reserve in Anambra State. Not to mention so many beautiful beaches in almost all the states in the Niger Delta area. Concerning the acceptability of the people of the area, a number of issues must be consider. The people of the area just like the rest of Nigerians from other parts of the country, from my own personal experience, are very hospitable and will always welcome strangers. Secondly, the people will always support any programme that will contribute to their economic well being. The fact is that most of the people living around these potentials I earlier mentioned are poor. And since the primary focus of ecotourism is the local people. If they are convince that it will be of benefit to them they will support it. When my Institute (National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies, Kano) conducted a training on the workshop on the viability of tourism development in all the geopolitical zone in the country in 2000, we realised that many the local government tourism committees including South-South and South East geopolitical zones were ignorance of the revenue that could accrue to the local people by developing tourism.

Concerning environmental degradation that could result from ecotourism, this is a genuine fact. But the issue is, from my little experience so far regarding ecotourism in Nigeria, we've not really have significant number of ecotourists that, through their activities, could destroy the environment. None of the 8 national parks in Nigeria has really optimised there capacities. In fact all the recorded cases of environmental degradation have been caused by the local communities as a result of poverty and ignorance. Even right inside the parks most of the environmental pollution were caused by the parks staff .This is part of my observation during the World Bank sponsored project on the watershed management of some Game Reserves and National Parks in Nigeria two years ago and I am privileged to be part of the team at Yankari National Park .

While tourism including ecotourism has the potential to degrade the environment of the Niger Delta area, this therefore must be taking into consideration at the planning stage. It is also true that ecotourism in the Niger Delta Area is almost none existent, hence I do not see the threat right now, perhaps in the future.

My position is that if the local people are involved in the operations of ecotourism and are enlightened about its prospect they will support it. If the local people are also shown what they can contribute by operating some sales outlets in terms of local food and souvenirs, and acting as tour guides, there will be no resentment from the local people. Also, when the local areas are also provided with infrastructure which must be provided to enhance tourism, the support of the local people will be won.

Contact Mr Samuel Segun Odunlami

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Tagore & women's eco-agro cooperatives.
Reply by Expert Asit Biswas to an Enquiry

Greetings from India. It is heartening to know your plan about establishing a vital link with Visva-Bharati which is India's invitation to the World community and where the World makes a single nest! We have been practising community tourism in the remote villages and forests of the East Himalaya (Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, North Bengal Duars, Sundarbans). A community tourism project for Shantiniketan is also in the pipeline which will take some more time to actually happen. Sustainable development and conservation of local nature and culture through community tourism is our main objective and we consider women to be the most important part of it. Tagore also envisaged this unique institution as a platform where academics would have a direct link with the fields and human development. He had high regards for the power of women. Self-sufficiency and self-dependence, according to him were the basic factors for the development of a nation like India and he had dedicated Sriniketan agriculture university for the upliftment of the poor villagers and uneducated ploughmen. Any attempt that tries to follow and practise his guidelines should be welcome and we at Help Tourism wholeheartedly support the same. Please let us know as to how we can assist you in your endeavour and also please keep us informed if you come to India in near future. We would be extremely happy to extend all possible co-operation.

Contact Mr. Asit Biswas

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Environmental Accreditation in New Zealand
Reply by Expert Anna Carr to an Enquiry

Currently there is no nationally accepted environmental accreditation program in NZ - there is the recent initiative to have all tourism businesses accredited through Green Globe 21 but this is voluntary and has come under scrutiny from some very scrupulous operators who are pro-environmentally active. There is no set standard for ecotourism operators in NZ unless they are viewing Marine Mammals (requiring a DOC Marine Mammals Viewing Permit) or within a protected natural area under the management of DOC which would require a concession. Once concessions are granted monitoring of their activities is very limited - in fact independent research by university students and academics is often the only form of monitoring of impacts that occurs. Many ecotourism operations operate in natural areas that are privately owned or managed by other organisations - thus not necessitating a standard to be met. Fortunately most ecotourism operations in NZ seem to be satisfying the markets they serve but whether they actually provide sustainable ecotourism experiences that conserve the environment and natural resources visited can be debated and requires further research. The NZ Tourism Industry Assn is currently producing guidelines for Nature Tourism Operators however this is currently shelved as the person in charge of the Guidelines has been made redundant and the area office from which he worked closed. If this does continue they are adopting Green Globe 21 for operations' energy performance and the National Ecotourism Assn of Australia's NEAP program with emphasis on interpretation. I would also like to add that the Department of Conservation have been working closely alongside TIA regarding possibly adoption of Green Globe 21 standards

Contact Ms. Anna Carr

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